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Kitchenware - Knives - Part II

A Guide to Types of Kitchen Knives

Jump to:-  Styles  |  Blades  |  Handles  |  Individual Types

Go to:-   Knives - Part I  |  Knives Part III  |  Main Cookware Page
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Styles of knives

There are basically two styles of knife available:


Western style Knives are made from softer steel however the edges are sturdier requiring less maintenance. They are thicker and heavier than Eastern style knives.  These are the knives of choice for chopping.


Eastern style knives are made from harder steel and the blades are thinner and generally lighter than western style knives. Although they tend to hold an edge and therefore stay sharper for longer,  they  also take longer to sharpen thus requiring more maintenance. They are excellent for cutting where accuracy is required.


Knife Blades


Flat ground knives where blade tapers from the spine to the cutting edge are generally considered to be the best as they are heavier and sturdier than hollow ground blades.


Blade Materials

Kitchen knives are generally available in three types of steel plus titanium and ceramic.

High carbon steel knives are the toughest of blades and have the ability to take a very sharp edge more easily.  Unfortunately, this type of steel can rust  and is not stain resistant,  actually turning black after . This discoloration is purely cosmetic and does not affect the performance of the knife in any way.

High carbon stainless steel  has a high carbon content to ensure hardness but also chromium making it stain resistant and looking good. It takes a sharp edge and holds it well.

Stainless steel has less carbon and more chromium. Although it is very stain and rust resistant the particular alloy mix isn't hard enough to hold the best edge. It is therefore not recommend.

Titanium is lighter than steel but holds as good an edge.  The blades are more flexible than steel and are best suited for boning and filleting.

Ceramic blades are made of  a very hard material called zirconium oxide. Much harder than any of the above, they will keep a sharp edge for a much longer period - months or even years. However they are also more brittle and once they lose their edge require diamond sharpening tools to resurrect.


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Cutting Edges

Today there are three main types of cutting edges available:-


Plain Edge knives are good all-rounders for general food preparation and a well maintained plain edge knife will cut, slice or chop most foodstuffs. It is however important to keep them well sharpened to avoid accidents happening due to a dull edge slipping whilst trying to cut food. 


Granton Edge knives have indented hollow oval areas in the side of the blades which creates pockets of air which prevent extra thin or soft slices from sticking to the blade.  They can be sharpened like plain edged knives.


Serrated Edge knives  are the wavy type of blade edges. Despite the fact that they are often a feature in cheaper knives,  because they  cut better when dull than a plain edged knife, they are actually a  better and safer option for those who require no-maintenance knives. Whilst it is not possible to sharpen serrated edge blades, by the time they become dull enough to need sharpening,  you'll probably be ready to buy a new knife.

Knife Handles


Although the traditional way to fit a handle is to rivet the tang between two halves of a solid handle, today there are also many knives on the market with pre-formed solid plastic  (composition) handles and metal handles.  It is as well to note that a plastic handle is not always an indicator of poor quality blade and equally that riveted handles are not necessarily a sign of high quality blades.


The handle you choose is therefore a personal choice, although when choosing, you should bear in mind that the tang of the blade should run as far down the handle as possible. (See Part I of this feature for an explanation of tang).


Other considerations which are worth making are between the attributes of the different types of handles:-


Composition  handles are relatively maintenance free and are often ergonomically designed

Stainless Steel handles look chic and are also maintenance free and hygienic though some may find them slippery

Wooden handles have a warmer luxurious feel. However, interestingly  they aren't allowed in many commercial kitchens - possibly due to the pace, heavy workload and hygiene implications


Individual Types of knives

Information on the various types of kitchen knives with graphics         

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